Dealing with the Walking Dead

I’m going to put this out there. I am not a nice person. I can be pretty ruthless. When I no longer have use for someone, I have no problem throwing him out.

Sherlock idiot

Giphy.com

 

If I don’t like something that happens, I can easily tuck it away so that I forget it ever occurred. And if somebody says something that doesn’t make sense, I readily say “That’s stupid!”

Such is the life of a writer.

Oh, you thought I was talking about real life? Did you forget this is a blog about writing? Silly!

Let me first say, I’m a Capricorn. We Capricorns are known for being loyal to a fault…until you cross us. Still, I’m inordinately proud of the progress I’ve made in being able to disassociate myself from something that is no longer working in my manuscript. It isn’t easy. Writers become attached to their words in ways that are incomprehensible to most people.

I’m sure I’m not the first person to say this. Writing a book is like pregnancy, and can take just as long (or longer!). Sometimes, it can be just as painful. There’s this surge of joy when you come up with a new idea for a story, much like the feeling you get when you first discover you are pregnant. Your mind starts racing, you picture scenes and plotlines, characters and settings, you decorate and embellish the story in your mind’s eye just as you plan out the nursery for your new bundle of joy.

As you go through your book “pregnancy”, your baby gives you growing pains. Suddenly, a scene isn’t working and you have the worst case of indigestion. What do you do?

Your first course of action is to medicate with a handful of M&M’s, which are always at hand for any serious writer. M&M’s make everything better, at least temporarily. Then, you attack the offending scene with gusto, working and reworking it until it makes sense. Unfortunately, sometimes the reworking serves only to suck the life out of the scene completely. If that is the case, you chop it out. Cut off its head. Put it in solitary confinement in a file marked “Save for later” that you hopefully will remember you created when you realize that the scene actually DOES work, just not where you had it. Maybe it belongs in a different story entirely. Maybe it will never get used. Still, it’s there, waiting for that moment when you recognize its value.

Yet for every discomfort, for every pang you get as your “baby” grows, there is a moment of sheer joy, that feeling a mother gets when she holds her child for the first time. It’s that thrill you get when you laugh out loud when you’re writing a scene. The tear you get in your eye when everything seems hopeless for your characters’ happily ever after. The rush you get at the possibilities for your story’s success, because you know, you just KNOW, you got it right.

Here’s the thing. Writing is hard. It’s a solitary job with lots of rejection. Life often gets in the way. Hardly anybody writes their first book and sells a million copies of it. Practice makes perfect…or at least, perfect enough that an editor wants to buy it.

And here’s another truth…if you stop writing, you get rusty. I’m learning that firsthand these days. My writing has hit a dry patch. My baby has stopped growing, and there’s that fear of miscarriage, that the manuscript I’m working on will never reach its full potential. What I find, though, whenever I return to the story, is that it is just sleeping. Sometimes it takes a little while to wake it up, but eventually, it springs back to life.

I never, ever discard anything I write. That isn’t ego talking. It’s common sense, and yes, attachment. Just as I couldn’t discard one of my own children, so I couldn’t discard even a paragraph that isn’t working out the way I want it to. At every conference I’ve ever attended, one of the key speakers has referred to that first offending manuscript, the one that didn’t sell, that nobody wanted, that sits in a drawer at home as a reminder of how far the author has come. Because if you keep writing, you will get better at it. Your first book isn’t going to be as good as your fifth, or even your second.

I have a huge graveyard of unused writing, waiting to be resurrected when its usefulness is clear. It will be the Zombie Apocalypse of (Jaye Marie) Rome.

*********

How do you deal with wayward words?

 

Jaye

 

 

 

Advertisements
Leave a comment

22 Comments

  1. Perfectly awesome way to describe it, although I have discarded some poorly written things as if I didn’t I’d have a room full of awful paragraphs and characters who just weren’t useful. Thanks for explaining out birthing process.

    Reply
    • Jaye Marie Rome

       /  August 25, 2014

      Thanks, Amy. I know, those paragraphs do have a way of piling up, don’t they?

      You could always add more memory to your hard drive, lol!

      Reply
  2. Great post. I read this as I ate a Hershey Bar and my WIP waits for me to pick it up and start the editing process. I never throw away words. I create a file for each book and keep the unused words there for use at another time. However, what starts out as an organized attempt becomes a puzzle when I go back to find something I think I could use.

    Reply
    • Jaye Marie Rome

       /  August 25, 2014

      I do the same, Lita. It can get confusing, for sure. I try to keep files for characters separate from scenes, so that helps a little bit. And if I get ideas for another book that might feature a secondary character, I create a file for that as well. It’s definitely a jumble!

      Reply
  3. Reblogged this on Lita Harris and commented:
    Great article from Jaye Marie Rome on writing.

    Reply
  4. RoseAnn DeFranco

     /  August 25, 2014

    Hi Jaye, I save it all! It is hard to cut something we love, the attachment is strong. I love equating a MS to giving birth. I remember a scene from either Becoming Jane or another movie on Jane Austen’s life when at a social gathering she’s talking to a woman who introduces her to her new infant child. Jane responds with…”And here is my Emma,” and hands the woman the book!

    Save it all…it will come together when it is meant to be!

    Reply
    • Jaye Marie Rome

       /  August 25, 2014

      Love that…I haven’t seen that movie, but it’s been on my list.

      Jaye

      Reply
  5. Great post! I agree our books are our babies and writing one can be as painful as giving birth. Chocolate does help, doesn’t it? And I also agree with your feelings about getting rusty if we don’t write consistently. It is a challenge!

    Reply
    • Jaye Marie Rome

       /  August 25, 2014

      Hi, Tina. Maybe that’s why we grow so attached to our work. The things that cause us pain sometimes are the things that matter the most.

      Reply
  6. Yes, M n’ Ms!! Those are a necessity. If I get stuck I tend to jump around to a scene I’m excited about. Keep plugging away, J!

    Reply
    • Jaye Marie Rome

       /  August 25, 2014

      I actually pictured you physically jumping around there for a minute, Joanna! 🙂

      Reply
  7. Hi Jaye. I have a delete-but-save file for every book I write. Sometimes you have to let yourself write crap before you can get to the good stuff. Susan Elizabeth Phillips said at an RWA conference a few years ago, “Give yourself permission to write crap”. It may be a scene or an entire book. Just keep on writing! And bring on the M&Ms!

    Reply
  8. Jaye Marie Rome

     /  August 29, 2014

    Maria, I’ve seen that quote from SEP before. I need to frame it and put it over my desk!

    Reply
  9. JB Schroeder

     /  August 31, 2014

    I know just what you mean about a sleeping ms, Jaye! Sometimes it’s just continued poking that’s needed, and then too–it helps if you never let it sleep! : ) Words I should take to heart! Great post!

    Reply
    • Jaye Marie Rome

       /  September 9, 2014

      We’re kind of in the same boat these days, aren’t we, JB?

      I’m getting ready to start poking harder now. I’m getting up so early to get Anika off to school, it’s added almost two hours to my day!

      Reply
  10. I don’t throw out my wayward words. I do save them in case they might be just the right fit for a manuscript down the road. BTW, I can’t tell you how much I look forward to the Zombie Apocalypse of (Jaye Marie) Rome!

    Reply
  11. Molly R. Moody

     /  September 5, 2014

    After reading this it makes me even more glad that I don’t write.

    Reply
    • Jaye Marie Rome

       /  September 9, 2014

      Yikes! It can be discouraging, Molly. But writing is also full of joy, satisfaction, and is a great way to get creative. Despite the negatives, it is really fulfilling!

      Reply
  12. elivingnews.com

     /  September 21, 2014

    I can definitely relate to saving paragraphs “in the parking lot” and thought I was eccentric for doing so. Now I don’t have to think I’m a hoarder and maybe I’ll find some use for them later on.

    Reply
    • Jaye Marie Rome

       /  September 22, 2014

      Love that analogy…park them until it’s time for them to go somewhere. No, you’re not a hoarder, and luckily, words in the computer don’t take up much physical space. 🙂

      Reply

Talk Back to the Femmes....

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

  • Recent Releases by the Femmes

  • JB Schroeder

  • Joanna Shupe

  • Tina Gabrielle

  • Maria K. Alexander

  • Michele Mannon

  • Diana Quincy

  • RoseAnn DeFranco

  • The Femmes:

  • Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 13,645 other followers

  • Top Posts & Pages

  • Archives

  • Categories

  • Stuff

%d bloggers like this: